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Reflections Massage Therapy

Monsters and Demons…and Dinosaurs November 1, 2011

It’s All Saints Day today, the scattered detritus of a night of revelry strewn across the sidewalks in front of my house. Last night my door was visited by skeletons and vampires and a zombie or two, some politicians, a dinosaur, a few princesses and a clown. Halloween. In my typical habit of reading into meanings, this holiday in particular has got me thinking about monsters and demons and why on this one day during the year do we let them out of the closet to roam the streets.

What is it about the monsters that both frighten and inspire us? Perhaps Halloween has become such a significant holiday not just for the sugar rush, but also for the chance to look monsters in the face and not fear them so much.

A wise person I know said recently, “If you hate the monsters, you are just another monster.” And that has stuck with me as I visit with some monsters, both physically and mentally.  How do you find compassion for those parts of yourself or of others that terrify or anger you?

One of the fundamental pieces of CranioSacral Therapy is appreciation. Appreciation for the brilliance of the system, for the inherent health and for the inner physician. And this applies to pain. This applies to holding patterns and coping mechanisms that we’ve developed. This applies to the way we jump to judgment as a way of barricading ourselves and protecting ourselves from…ourselves. This applies to those moments when we are so triggered it’s all we can do to get out of bed. And it applies to nailing a handstand in yoga because we trust our body to hold up. It applies to recognizing the true extent of our capacity. And it applies to those moments of quiet when we feel rested and content in our bodies. All of this deserves appreciation because this is all our system exercising its intelligence.

But, I am not going to be the first to say, appreciating pain is about as difficult as having compassion for monsters. How do we soften in the face of fear and suffering? How do we trust that we do not need to hold so tightly to our armor, or our holding pattern, or our anger? What if we could learn to appreciate what those monsters have to teach us? What if we could find compassion for them and as a result for ourselves?

It’s a leap. It’s a leap that we’re not often willing to take, or perhaps not even aware is an option. So, on Halloween, we set lose our monsters, let them roam the streets, check things out, see what’s changed in the past year. Maybe we are a little gentler with them this year; maybe we see them in a different light. And I’d offer an idea. What if we don’t put them away, but let them hang out a little longer? Let them talk, let them rant, let them scream. And listen to them. Because those monsters are no different than the dinosaurs and princesses and clowns (ok, those are still scary to me) that also inhabit our lives. And they have just as much to teach us about what it means to be human.

 

 

Arriving March 27, 2011

Filed under: Balance,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 3:30 pm
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Upon returning home from Hawaii a month ago, a dear friend of mine asked me if there was anything in particular that helped me arrive home. It was a question no one had posed to me before in all of my travels and returning, at least not in such a way, and being the ruminator that I am, I began thinking about it. What helped me arrive? What were things that I did upon returning home that helped me to land? Were there foods that I liked to eat? Particular rituals that I performed? Or did I simply walk in the door, drop my bags, sigh and declare my return?

So, a month later, I find myself entertaining the same question, this time after a week in the Florida Keys with my family – a decidedly different experience than bumbling around a Hawaiian island, but wonderful nonetheless. I am faced with the similar feeling of missing the ocean (my life-blood) and this time around, missing family and the familiarity of a place that I have returned to over and over for the past 15 years.  And it was vacation – in the truest sense of the word, slow and languorous, sun and salt water-filled.

Perhaps the question of arrival comes down to transitions. How do you face transitions? Do you jump right in, never looking back at what you’ve left? Do you dwell on what is no longer and only with a begrudging resistance give in to the new? Do you actually enjoying floating in the in-between, reveling in the uncertainty, in the pause between activity?

So, on my first day back in Boulder, a gloriously sunny day with an ever so slight hint of Spring on the way, I find myself thinking about what it means to arrive somewhere. Today I am taking the opportunity of an open day to go slowly. To unpack and put my clothes away, to do laundry, to sit in the sunshine with Lucy, to catch up with friends and to get my feet back on old familiar trails because all of these are pieces of my life here that I cherish, that remind me I’m home. And I am doing this today with an awareness of the felt sense of gradually settling back in to life. Occasionally, I will feel a contraction against that, a resistance to the reality that vacation is over. And I give in to that resistance as a part of my arrival.

Flying presents us with such a funny puzzle. On the one hand it expedites our travel-time, allowing us more of our precious vacation time actually spent on vacation. But it’s also somewhat disorienting in the way it transports us so quickly from one place to the next with little regard for the transition that is involved in leaving somewhere and arriving somewhere new.

I leave you with a few questions that are bouncing around in my head today, what is the difference between arriving and simply showing up? How do you notice it in yourself? Big or small, how do you face transitions? This doesn’t have to be arriving home from a trip, it can simply be walking into a room or a situation – meeting a friend for lunch – do you jump in or do you go slowly to allow yourself to settle in this new space you find yourself in? What is it that lets you know you’ve arrived?

 

 

The wheels keep turning… March 11, 2011

Filed under: Balance,Massage Therapy — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 8:32 am
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I’ve been back in Boulder for a little over a week now, after 10 days in Hawaii. This was it. The last of the 50 states for me to visit and it felt appropriate that I’d saved Hawaii for the end. I spent 10 days bumbling around the big island with a dear friend, camping on beaches, eating fresh fish and swimming like it was going out of style. To say I love to travel would be an understatement. “Itchy feet” a friend of mine once referred to it. I have a hard time staying in one place for too long, part of what makes the fact that I’ve lived in Boulder for 5 years such an astounding fact.

But, it’s been almost a year and a half since my last big trip, and I was ready.

One thing that happens for me, almost instantaneously when I’m traveling is that I start thinking. Not in the cyclical, spiraling, going nowhere thought patterns of my day-to-day living, but thinking with clarity, with forward momentum. I credit the actual physical moment that I’m experiencing with my ability to not get so stuck in my thought patterns. So, needless to say, the wheel of our rental jeep hit the pavement and I was off, both physically and emotionally.

One of the pieces that I love so much about movement is the physical reminder that nothing is ever fixed, nothing is permanent, everything is moving and changing and dying and being reborn all the time. Somethings take longer, sure, and can feel like they’ve always been a certain way. But in truth, everything is shifting, just at different rates. That is nowhere more apparent or in your face as it is while traveling because physically, everything around you is changing minute to minute. Your perception of time shifts because of how much information is being taken in by your system all the time.

There’s some permission in this realization, I think, I hope. Where it really hit home for me was in recognizing how often I’ve applied that “fix it and be done” approach to my health or my body or my mental state. I want things to change, to shift, to be fixed. And then I want to wipe the residue from my hands and be done with it. Ha! I say to myself, haha! Not possible. For nothing we tend to is ever really complete. We revisit things over and over again in our lives and so much self-judgment can creep in when we criticize ourselves for not “getting over” something. But, here’s the thing that Hawaii taught me: we’re human. Daily we are battling our own imperfections and those of the world around us, perhaps even working to find some acceptance of all of it. This practice of being human is in some ways a tug of war, or a balancing act, or any other cliché that depicts the constant push and pull, give and take of allowing what is to simply be there: accepting it without wallowing in it or magnifying it in a way that doesn’t serve our healing.

Because I think that true healing comes in accepting ourselves with all the attendant un-fixedness. In my body I have an imbalance in my hips, sometimes it feels fine and doesn’t bother me and sometimes it’s all I can do to walk for 5 minutes. But it used to be that when it would flare up, I couldn’t stand for more than a minute or two without experiencing debilitating pain down the back of my leg. It’s not like that anymore. It’s not completely gone, but it has changed so much in the years since it began. And I have learned to make room in my body and my life for to times when it does flare up. I’ve been receiving bodywork regularly for years now. I wear orthotics. I run pretty much only on trails now, no more pavement. I take care of my body. Yet, sometimes when I bend over to put Lucy’s leash on, something slips and that familiar twinge returns. For a while, it frustrated me to no end. Each time it got better, I thought I’d fixed it. And each time it happened again, I thought I’d failed at taking care of my body.

Over the course of this I’ve learned some new things about my structure, delved into new poses in yoga, and found additional ways of addressing what happens. It’s almost as if the time between each flare up is a chance for me to care for my body and expand the tools that I have to do that. And then my hip flares up again and I get to use my new tools (as well as the old ones) and things change. And each time the pain is there for a shorter and shorter duration. It’s as if, each time we revisit something that has been difficult for us in the past, it is an opportunity to see our own growth and to approach that difficulty from this new place in ourselves.

So, I am finding some gratitude in these cycles, in revisiting pain, as well as joy, and getting to see the reflection of my growth and evolution in those moments. And the acknowledgment that nothing is ever fixed has also quieted the voice in my head that says “c’mon Alicia! I thought we’d dealt with this and moved on!”

This could sound pretty hopeless and in some ways it doesn’t really help my case as a massage therapist, but the point of this is to say that it does help – it all helps. Sure, nothing is ever really complete, nothing is ever really done, but with some acknowledgement and acceptance we can find easier and less painful ways of dealing with and addressing those things that we wish we could fix and put behind us. And a pretty solid dose of compassion for oneself – always.

 

 

 
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